//Armed forces stay male bastions

Armed forces stay male bastions

MALE FORCE: The Indian Army is working on making itself gender sensitive.

New Delhi/Jammu: Women join the armed forces with dreams of breaking gender barriers, but many of them find that life in uniform isn’t what was promised in the recruitment posters.

Several recently retired woman officers CNN-IBN spoke to said the main problems they faced related to adjustment, acceptance and their being a very small minority in male-dominated forces.

It has been two years since Sq Leader Deepa Nailwal wore her blue uniform for the last time. Today, she is extremely comfortable in her silver jewellery and long flowing skirt. A member of the first batch of women to be inducted into the Indian Air Force, Nailwal wore her uniform for 11 proud years. She then quit.

"The forces have, because of the nature of the job they perform a clear, a cut hierarchy which can be claustrophobic," she says.

Suicide stories

bullet Suicide cases in armed forces are on the rise with official figures pointing to 80 unnatural deaths during the past three years.

bulletDefence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has asked the service chiefs to immediately probe the causes.
bulletYoung Lieutenant Susmita Chakraborty turning an assault rifle on herself at Udhampur is the third case of suicide in the armed forces during the past one month.
bulletA young, decorated Captain S Kohli turned his AK 47 assault rifle on himself while he was posted with a Rashtriya Rifle unit.
bulletKohli died soon after rejoining his unit after leave and his wife and other family members alleged foul play.
bulletAccording to figures tabled in Parliament, ten such cases have been reported during the past one year in which the death figures have been high.
bulletMost of these incidents are happening in areas where security forces have been deployed in anti-militancy operations.

Especially when you are a young woman, leaving home for the first time and being posted to an area where you are in a minority of one. Loneliness can be the biggest problem. But there are also issues of acceptance.

“On my first posting in Assam, the jawans would be reluctant to even salute us. Eventually we made them realise that we were here to stay," says Capt Priyanka Sharma.

Till two months ago, Sharma was a captain in the Army Supply Corps. Today, she is a homemaker. Sharma was eligible for tenure of five years (and more years if she wished) but she opted out. Of the 49 women in her 2001 batch, 13 have called it a day.

“All eyes are constantly watching our actions and you don't have a breathing space. The comfort level has to be both ways if a lady officer is trying to adjust. Why can’t others do that," says Sharma.